There’s not much information about Alicia Watkins‘ scientific embroidery, but we can all agree the project is a fun way to identify potentially harmful microbes. From anthrax to salmonella, herpes, e.coli, toxoplasma, mono, botulism, and the common cold, Watkins has colorfully cross-stiched many well-known bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Some of these dreadful microbes almost appear cute by Watkins’ careful hand, associating the warmth and comfort that cross-stitching evokes with the coldness of threatening diseases and sicknesses. Watkins’ Etsy store, appropriately named Watty’s Wall Stuff, has these stiched microbes available for purchase at $19.99 each, along with other clever and pop culture influenced cross-stitch work. She also takes custom orders, as well as making some of her patterns available for purchase. (via this isn’t happiness)
In collaboration with microbiologists, the English artist Anna Dumitriu has honed her unique talent for working with bacteria as a means of staining fabric; her high-art fashions feature organic patterns made by microorganisms. In her most recent installation project, The Romantic Disease, she works with a more dangerous type of bacteria: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism responsible for Tuberculosis.
In combining now-killed TB DNA with found and altered relics of late 19th and early 20th century technologies, Dumitriu creates a vivid medicinal—and often foreboding— landscape. Before the invention of antibiotics, TB patients were taken to “sanatoria,” hospitals built at high altitudes (then thought to be beneficial to sufferers), where they were confined to bed and given extreme treatments. For a piece titled “Rest, Rest, and Rest!” Dumitriu constructs a model sanitarium bed; for another piece, she carves the pattern of lung tissue onto an actual Pneumothorax Machine, once used to collapse patients’ lungs.
The Romantic Disease is neither a historical or scientific tour of old hospital machinery; on the contrary, is is an emotionally dangerous and poignantly subjective exploration of the disease. Although the exhibit avoids mention or representation of actual sufferers, individual pieces are imbued with a distinctly human touch. The sanitarium bed and curtain are small and delicate as dollhouse pieces; beside the larger pieces, they appear lonesome and afraid. Similarly, a group of miniature woven felt lungs, each containing sterilized Mycobacterium tuberculosis, appear to flutter like tiny, fragile birds beside the Pneumothorax Machine.
A maternity dress, dyed with supposed TB cures like safflower and madder root, hangs loosely on a dress form; this piece becomes all the more heartbreaking with the knowledge that at a time when the disease was thought to be spread genetically, pregnant women underwent forced abortions. The historical reverence and tender craftsmanship with which Anna Dumitriu presents The Romantic Disease serves to humanize those who suffered at the hands of this politically and socially fraught disease. The work is currently on display at West London’s Waterman’s. (via Smithsonian Magazine and Anna Dumitriu)
What story would your flesh tell if it were splayed and flattened, digitally altered to appear as a work of art, caught between the angled sides of a camera frame? For his stunning series of photographs, titled Skin, the photographer June Yong Lee manipulates portraits of nude bodies, arranging their torsos in such a way that defies the limitations of the muscular skeletal system.
Despite the artist’s deliberate omission of common indicators of visual identity—facial features, body shape, and race—the images are an authoritative and legible document of selfhood. Pointing to the human desire to express what cannot be conveyed with language, Lee’s camera reveals tattoos, tired milky breasts, freckles, and scars.
For the artist, skin operates as a visual diary of experience. Without the guidelines of a more recognizable human form, memories— that range from the mundane to the sexually charged— are kept only through marks etched on flesh. He writes, “our skin never forgets [our past].”
The ideological tensions between body and mind are subverted as the skin organ is compressed; as if they were flowers held between the heavy pages of an encyclopedia, mounds of sin become something to be studied and read. The careful framing of each piece enhances this idea; positioned in relation to a central axis of the navel, the bisected torsos appear bound down the middle like some sort of corporeally historical book.
The phenomenal work is so poignant because in some ways, it confirms the unreliability of a subjective human memory: tattoos are faded or unreadable, and scars are healed. The images seem to blend the antique tonal richness of early Victorian photography with a morbid sense of modern forensics; as if recovered from an ancient autopsy, the slabs of flesh are somehow mournful yet objective and scientific. Our memories erode, and we die; yet through some miraculous marriage of science and art, fragments of our forgotten moments might be archived. (via Feature Shoot)
Arie van’t Riet became an artist by accident. As a medical radiation physicist, van’t Riet experienced first-hand the technological developments in quality image x-rays. One day, a colleague asked him if he could x-ray one of his art paintings. van’t Riet had never done anything like that before, but found that it worked and became curious about what else he could x-ray. Starting with a bouquet of tulips, van’t Riet found that the image resembled a black and white negative. After digitizing the image and using Photoshop to color the image, people began to tell him that he was creating art, and the rest is history. van’t Riet refers to these stunning images as “bioramas.”
“Looking with X-ray eyes to nature. That’s what I like to experience with my X-ray camera. I prefer X-ray objects of ordinary scenes like a butterfly nearby a flower, a fish in the ocean, a mouse in the field,a heron along the riverside, a bird in a tree and so on. Each time it is challenging me to arrive at an X-ray photograph that represents the sentiment of the scene, do raise questions and excite curiosity.”
Patrick Gries’ collection of skeletal photographs are part of his book, “Evolution,” that seeks to make the case for evolutionary theory in a way that has not yet been captured so eloquently through the medium of photography. The project spanned 6 months and involved Gries shooting the photographs of over 250 skeletons at The Museum of Natural History in Paris, as well as 4 other locations in France. These monochrome photographs of skeletons were shot with strong directional light and appear almost sculptural in their presentation, asking viewers to consider the boundaries of scientific study and aesthetic event.
In the book, Gries’ photographs are accompanied with text written by scientist, documentarian, and professor emeritus at Paris’ Museum of Natural History, Dr. Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu. This text describes the skeletons, suggesting how to understand them in the context of history and the patterns of evolution. “New forms have evolved from old ones. Stubby amphibian feet have been transformed into hooves, bird wings and whale flippers. Yet many of the bones in those original limbs have not changed their relationship to the rest. They have just been stretched, flattened or reduced to vestigial knobs. Along the paths of evolution, the vertebrate skeleton has been transformed into similar forms many times over — aardvarks in Africa and anteaters in South America.” You can purchase and see more photographs at Éditions Xavier Barral. (via unknown editors, ny times, and the guardian )
At RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, lecturer Claudia Diaz has implemented an unconventional project in order to inspire her anatomy students. After teaching human anatomy for over 20 years, Diaz decided to try something new as she found the regular routine of anatomical memorization boring and uninspired. Over the past 3 years, Diaz has explored human anatomy with her students by having them paint the bodies of 10 students, revealing tendons and bones that would be visible if the person’s skin were stripped. Featured in these photographs is chiropractic student Zac O’Brien who patiently sat for around 18 hours while fellow students painted him. The finished result is what Diaz likes to call “anatomical man,” first brought to one of her classes in 2010.
”We walked him in and I still remember the looks on the kids’ faces. They were just in awe,” she said. ”I realised it shocked them, it inspired them and it motivated them.” Previously shy about taking off their clothes so classmates could study their bodies, the students began to shed their inhibitions through this painting exercise. ”I couldn’t get the kids to keep their clothes on. They were all throwing them off,” Dr Diaz said. (via)
This project seems to follow a trend in the merging of science and art, specifically within the study of human anatomy, and the direct involvement of real human bodies in order to reveal the beauty of the human body, inside and out.
Filmmaker Dave Altizer’s short mini-documentary Porcelainia features Bobby Jaber, an educator, scientist, and artist. After Jaber retired from teaching chemistry, he was able to focus his energies on porcelain work, specifically geometric designs based on molecular shapes. Jaber’s approach to his work is inspired by his scientist/artist predecessors, most notably Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome. Though he’s had a little financial success with some of his work, Jaber is clearly motivated by love and dedication to his craft. Be sure to stick around after the credits to catch Jaber’s priceless reaction to current technology.
As a child, Jonathan Latiano found his artistic inspiration in the displays and dioramas at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. Latiano uses his understanding of biology, astronomy, physics and geology as starting points for the creation of his work and the way he contextualizes his physical world. Created with a variety of materials, his work evokes tensions of temporality and permanence, physicality and ephemerality, destruction and creation, stasis and kinesis, and fragility and strength. “I find the poeticism and concepts of the physics of our universe simultaneously fascinating, beautiful and horrifying. The pieces that I create contrast abstracted human intuition with the reality of our natural environment. I strive to emphasize the areas that exist in-between the boundaries of defined regions. My work, in many ways, is my own personal attempt to understand my place in the physical universe.”